Crime law push, Sustainability Green Fair, GOP plays with numbers, Sunday alcohol, School District closing five schools 

News blips

"It has been much less rewarding of late."
Former State Ports Authority Chairman and CEO Bernard Groseclose Jr., who quit last week. State legislators have recently suggested overhauling the quasi-state agency after a continued decline in ship traffic compared to other East Coast ports. The SPA is also facing a threat by leading customer Maersk that it will start shipping to other ports beginning next month. We're not terribly sure what he meant by "rewarding." Groseclose received a $27,000 bonus late last year on top of his $264,000 salary. Groseclose is also expected to receive more than $130,000 in additional compensation as part of his severance package. Source: The Post and Courier, The State

Riley Renews Crime Law Push
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley returned last week to press for increased state penalties for handgun violations and habitual offenders. He first introduced legislation in 2006. Some of Riley's ideas gained momentum in the last session, but failed to make it through the state House of Representatives.

This time, Riley has introduced a new "Support Tough Crime Legislation" page on the city's website, www.charlestoncity.info. It's expected to include updates on pending crime bills and information on how residents can help.

"Violent crime committed with guns is a statewide problem," Riley says. "We must all work together, large cities and small towns, to have the strongest and toughest criminal justice system in our state."

Riley is pressing legislation that would:

• Allow warrantless searches of people on probation or parole.

• Allow courts to deny bail to offenders already out on bond for another offense.

• Prohibit most convicts from having guns.

• Create new laws against drug dealers who use guns.

• Increase penalties for those convicted of assault and battery with intent to kill.

• Create mandatory minimum sentences for illegal gun possession.

Greg Hambrick

Sustaining the Green Momentum
Students at the College of Charleston will be hosting a Sustainability Green Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thurs., Jan. 29, at the Cistern Yard and Stern Center.

"Ultimately going green, being sustainable, whatever label you want to give it, really is an issue about quality of life," says Stephanie Mills Visser, interim director of the college's Center for Civic Engagement.

Events include: a "100 Mile Meal," with food produced and prepared within 100 miles of Charleston; organic beer from Coast Brewing; eco-friendly art; a statue building contest out of recycled materials; construction of rain barrels, bird houses, and a Habitat for Humanity shed; a compost bin building station; and a tour of a biodiesel school bus. "Green" businesses and organizations will also be on hand.

"As people walk away, I hope they will realize that some of the stuff they can do is incredibly easy, and some of it will even save them some money," Visser says. —Greg Hambrick

S.C. Republican party Plays Well With Itself
In his bid to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee, South Carolina GOP Chair Katon Dawson has often pointed to his success in the state.

"Overall, Republicans won 82.22 percent of the races where a Republican candidate filed for office [in 2008]," state party spokesman Rob Godfrey told The (Columbia) Free Times. "That is 2 percent greater than 2004."

But they're including districts where Republicans ran unopposed. If you're going to include a race where you ran without competition as a "win," should you include a race where you didn't run as a "loss"?

Republicans actually did worse in 2008 when you just consider the statewide races that were actually competitive (races for president, the Congress, the Statehouse, and district solicitors where a Republican faced an opponent). In 2008, GOP candidates won 56 percent of the competitive races, compared to the 61 percent GOP candidates won in 2004. —Greg Hambrick

$475

That's the recent fine Charleston police assessed a Calhoun Street restaurant owner for not having a Sunday alcohol license. State Law Enforcement Division leaders announced last week that local police will pick up the slack on alcohol violations. Source: The State

School District closing five schools
The Charleston County School District voted on Monday to close five underperforming or underutilized schools. Schools were voted on individually, but each school closing had at least seven votes from the board.

The district began considering reorganization last June in the face of dwindling state aid. Closing schools is expected to save the district $5.3 million in operating costs in the first year alone — a healthy portion of the $21 million shortfall the district is expected to face when it begins budget talks this spring.

The five schools that would close are Charlestowne Academy, Fraser Elementary, and McClellanville, Brentwood, and Schroder middle schools. Other schools will see minor changes, like cutting the upperclassman program at Charleston Progressive Academy.

"It is not acceptable to have children in failing schools," says board member Ruth Jordan.

The district has said it will be looking for added savings, like making recent mid-year department cuts permanent, eliminating travel stipends, reviewing bus routes, and reducing magnet school transportation. District staff have said that, without the school closings, employees and programs will have to be cut deeper.

Parents came out, some thankful their school was spared and others demanding their school be pulled from the closing list.

"You are not going to take Fraser," said defiant Eastside resident Dorothy Smith. "Why are you going to make these students walk all the way down to Sanders Clyde. No, ma'am. No you're not." —Greg Hambrick


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